The controversy over an anti-bullying policy protecting Muslim students has reached a new level, with offended parents now suing the local school district.
Some parents are suing the San Diego Unified School District to stop what they call an Anti-Islamophobia program, recently adopted by the school board.
The policy calls for a safe environment for Muslim students, who the District said are often the target of bullying. The district has an anti-bullying policy protecting all students, and some parents argued a policy specifically for Muslims is not necessary.
"Under the guise of this anti-bullying program, defendants have fallen in with the aforementioned religious organization, (CAIR, Council on American Islamic Relations) to set up a subtle discriminatory scheme that establishes Muslim students as a privileged religious group ... Students of other faiths are left on the outside looking in," alleges the complaint.
The executive director of CAIR-San Diego for the Council for American Islamic Relations says it isn't about privileging one religious group, but ensuring a safe environment for everyone.
"We're not there to be treated better than anyone else," said Hanif Mohebi, the executive director of CAIR–San Diego. "All we're saying is to be sure that when we're trying to provide a safe environment for all, that includes the Muslim American community."
Mohebi was surrounded by supporters at a news conference Thursday.
He said in survey taken by Muslim students statewide, more than half stated they had been bullied.
"Fifty-five (percent) is about twice the number of the national level of students being bullied," Mohebi said. "So definitely this is much more than any other community."
Some of those who filed the claim against the District also held a news conference.
Attorney Charles LiMandri from the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, said the anti-bullying program is "a pretext because we have not been shown any evidence there really is a bullying problem in Muslim children, particularly in San Diego.
LiMandri also questioned the district's "entanglement" with CAIR, which he called an extremist political Muslim advocacy group.
"Their mission and purpose is to spread the influence of Muslim in the United States, which is appropriate for them to do that as a political group, but not in our schools," LiMandri said. "The courts are very clear about that."
Mohebi said CAIR is a civil rights and liberty organization.
"I am appalled. I am not happy with people who have no shame to label people with no facts," said Mohebi.
He went on to say, "We are not politically trying to change anything, ok, or make any political statement. We are responding to students being bullied and providing information for educators to deal with that. There's no politics in that."
Limandri said the district has reached out to him, and it's possible the two sides can work together on the program, to avoid this issue from going to court.